While in Mexico last week, I had an epiphany. Nothing ground shattering but enough to wake me up and realize how judgemental I can be. In the last couple of years, I have made a conscious effort not to judge others and remind myself that everyone is living their reality to the best that they can. What surprised me during our trip was how judgemental I was of myself. I didn’t really catch it until towards the end of our vacation, and I’ll explain how it came about.
We were staying at this beautiful all-inclusive resort, the Azul Beach Resort Riviera Cancun, that offered a number of facilities and activities for both children and adults. Every morning, we would wake up nice and early (thanks to our 14-month old!), get the kids and ourselves dressed and walk over to the nearest restaurant offering breakfast. The kind hostesses would walk us to our table and we would begin our regular restaurant routine.
“Marko sit down please,” Stevan would say to our three-year old.
“Hold your cup with both hands please,” I would add in.
“Marko, where are you going? Come back please. We don’t walk around in restaurants,” we would both repeat, over and over again.
Meanwhile, Helena is squirming out of her high chair, chucking food on the floor and letting out a loud cry to voice her hate for being locked into a high chair.
This scene would replay itself at almost every meal during our first few days. I’d look around the restaurant, and in my head, I truly believed that both wait staff and patrons were secretly staring at us and judging our poor parenting ways. Why couldn’t we get a handle on this situation? Why couldn’t my three-year old sit and eat his meal calmly like the other children? Why was my baby the only one shrieking and refusing to sit in her chair? We’d leave the restaurant flustered and annoyed. I’d then waste valuable mind space thinking about how I failed as a parent.
Isn’t it crazy? Just writing this seems a little insane to me. I was so hard on myself.
Then came the epiphany.
On day five or six of our vacation, we were again, at a restaurant having supper when a young family walked in. Their shrieking baby, probably the same age as my daughter, drew our attention to them. Their son just wouldn’t take a seat. This family came with friends who also had two kids under the age of four. Their kids were in the midst of an epic meltdown. As I watched empathetically wondering whether I should offer this family a hand, I noticed one of the mothers staring back at us. She was staring at me, my husband and my suddenly well-behaved kids. I recognized the look in her eye, the one that wondered, “why can’t my kids just sit like hers?”. Funny enough, I hadn’t even noticed that mine were sitting calmly. Marko had been sitting for his entire meal, eating and enjoying some chatter. Helena wasn’t fighting the high chair and wasn’t throwing food. She was happy.
It dawned me: change is hard. Our first few nights in Mexico, my kids were over stimulated. Too much had changed. Routine was out the window. We were in restaurants every day for every meal, they didn’t have their own space nor did they have their own toys. They were tired and were being asked to adjust to a new reality, and to adjust quick. But as time went on, the kids did adjust. They understood the new (temporary) norms. They understood what was expected of them at the restaurants. They were the “model” children I had been looking at and I hadn’t even noticed.
I spent a good part of the trip judging myself. Why I hadn’t done a better job as a parent, why I couldn’t handle travelling with my kids without help, why I was allowing myself to get frustrated when my kids didn’t “behave”. I was so caught in this negative cycle that I didn’t notice or acknowledge how well things were going considering our constantly changing environment and routine. We were great parents. We brought our young children to Mexico and we were having fun. Sure, the restaurant experience at first was difficult, but it did get better. Significantly better.
I wish I had told that mother looking at us that things were going to get easier. That this was simply the start of her trip and the children would adjust. That the parents would also adjust. That they would have fun and I knew that because I was her, judging myself, only a few days prior.